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What’s in an initial or two?

Did anybody ever ask 60s rocker PJ Proby what the P and the J stood for (especially considering his birth name was James Marcus Smith!).

Does anyone care what HP translates as on the bottles of brown stuff – as long as the sauce tastes good with chips?

But with JJ Hamblett it’s a bit different. Since he first sprang to fame as one third of the band Triple J then one quarter of the rapidly re-named Union J during the ninth series of the star making series The X Factor it’s just about been the first question anyone has asked him.

“It’s Jockey Jamie,” he explains. “There was already a Jaymi (Hemsley) in the group so to make things easier I had to change.

But Jockey? Well, until he was 21 that’s exactly what he was – riding in some 365 races and winning a sufficient number of them to keep interested and interesting.

“I’m from Newmarket which is a racing town,” he explains. “My dad and brother were jockeys so it was a sort of family tradition – though I’d always had a guilty ambition of hoping to become a singer and performer. But I never thought it would come to anything.”

He’s not the first chart topper to have literally ridden his way to fame. The late Davy Jones, famous for his place in The Monkees, also started out as a jockey and likewise became an all rounder in showbusiness.

“It was no fun struggling to keep my weight down,” says the still super slim entertainer who should have to trouble fitting into Prince Charming’s figure hugging outfits in this year’s Grand Theatre production of Cinderella.

It’s actually his pantomime debut but melting the heart of rags to riches Cinders shouldn’t be too difficult considering that Union J have already notched up four top 10 singles, topped the iTunes chart and enjoyed sold out tours of the UK and Europe.

“Like a lot of people in showbusiness I have to admit there was a time when I thought ‘oh panto’ and dismissed it but attitudes have changed and I certainly look at the idea of being in one very differently now.

“I’m really looking forward to it and the Grand Theatre is amazing. It’s a really magical place – and the cast are a great bunch of people.”

He likes the challenges that acting provide him with – “and I don’t just mean having to learn the words”

To that end he’s notched up credits in a trio of feature films– the latest of which, Once Upon a Time In London, looks set for release whilst he’s in Blackpool.

“I play a 1930s gangster,” he says. “In fact, I’ve been a gangster in three films now – which is all a bit different to being in Union J or performing as Prince Charming. It shows I don’t always have to be the nice guy.”

Despite it being two years since the last Union J single and despite a couple of re-shuffles in the line-up, JJ promises fans of the band that they will be back next year.

“We’ve just recently signed with a new independent label and have got some really good new material lined up,” he says.  “I might even be able to sneak some of it into the panto – you never know.”

So, what was The X Factor really like?

“It can be harsh but the entertainment industry in general can be harsh,” he admits. “You can be up there one minute and crushed the next but it’s a good preparation for what’s to come. I think I was lucky in that being a jockey taught me how to lose – as well as how to win.”

Book your tickets to see JJ in Panto here.

Cinderella plays at Blackpool Grand Theatre from Tuesday 5 December 2017 to Sunday 7 January 2018

Book your seats today, otherwise not even your Fairy Godmother will be able to magic you a ticket to see Blackpool’s must-see Christmas show…


Interview by Robin Duke